^^ our US Senate Republican primary endorsee : Beth Lindstrom at east Boston National Night Out, with Jack Harper of North Suffolk Mental Health Center

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We begin today’s endorsements with the three-way Republican Primary for United States Senator. The winner of this primary will face Senator Elizabeth Warren. It will be a very difficult task for any challenger to out-vote Warren, but our Senator should have the strongest available opponent, the better to debate all of the issues. And there are some. Even if you agree with most of Warren’s general policy direction — and I do — her specific recommendations seem not well thought out, and she has a tendency to speak carelessly. She may well run for President, and if she does so, she will need to up her preparedness substantially. A strong opponent on the November ballot will force her to do better.

It’s also crucial that her opponent be able to represent the majority of our state’s voters and do so with idealism and innovative policy advocacy. Warren’s opponent might win; and we cannot have a Senator who acts divisively or irresponsibly toward the majority, especially of City voters and activists.

Given all of the above, we endorse Beth Lindstrom. The panel’s vote was 8 for Lindstrom, 3 for John Kingston, and none for Geoff Diehl.

Mr. Diehl was Mr. Trump’s Massachusetts campaign chairman — enough said. Mr. Kingston has made the effort to reach out to City voters, and his support from our panel shows that his reach has not been in vain. Our panel’s three Kingston voters like his “outsider” status and his direct talk: one said “he walks the walk.” Yet, for us, Mr. Kingston, who began as the most anti-Trump of the three — he supported Gary Johnson in 2016 — has come to advocate Trumpian views on immigration and borders. These have no force here in Boston, where 200,000 immigrants live under the threat of ambush and deportation. Our immigration laws badly need total reform. Mr. Kingston has offered no reform plan.

Beth Lindstrom, on the other hand, has ( 1 ) campaigned extensively in Boston and engaged in many useful policy conversations with all manner of activists. She continues to do so. ( 2 ) On immigration, she supports enacting a pathway to citizenship for DACA’s 1,800,000 eligibles and citizenship for those who do two tours of combat duty in our Armed Forces. She supports making permanent the residency status of our City’s thousands of “TPS” immigrants. She supports generous asylum and refugee admissions.

( 3 ) She also seems to have the support of Governor Baker’s activist team — a very good prospect, because Governor Baker is a reformer par excellence, comfortable with innovation and open to every sort of imaginative policy initiative, particularly in the areas of climate resiliency, mass transit expansion, and workforce housing development. If Lindstrom becomes our Senator, her readiness to advocate for Baker’s reform priorities, in state and in Congress, will benefit us all. For those taking a Republican ballot next Tuesday, we urge a  vote for Beth Lindstrom.

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And  now to our second group of Democratic Primary endorsements :

11th Suffolk State Representative : we endorse Liz Malia for re-election. The unanimous vote was 8 to 0. (A few of our panel did not vote in this race.) Malia has two opponents, Ture Turnbull, a leading advocate of single-payer health insurance, and Charles Clemons Mohammed, who opposed Malia in 2016. Malia has represented half of Jamaica Plain, parts of Roslindale, and Fort Hill Roxbury since 1998. No one in the legislature works harder or is better prepared., Her newsletters to constituents are required reading for those who want to know the specifics of committee debates and the politics of reform : can a bill get enough votes or not, and if not, why not. Malia’s advocacy was crucial to our state becoming the first to enact marriage equality. Her voice for the “progressive caucus” agenda remains the most persuasive; she never succumbs to impatience or intransigence, and she is better able, it seems, than most “progressives” to persuade her constituents that “steady as she goes” is the most effective reform course. We strongly support the re-election of Liz Malia.

14th Suffolk State Representative : Hyde Park, Readville, and most of Roslindale have had Angelo M. Scaccia as their representative since 1981, and for some terms before that. He is the “dean of the House.” As in 2106, he has two opponents, civil rights attorney Gretchen van Ness and NAACP Board member Segun Idowu. If Scaccia had only one opponent, he would likely face a difficult race, as the District has become majority people of color, and 40 years in office is a tough sell in this year of “change can’t wait.” In addition, Scaccia holds old-fashioned social issue views. He was the only Suffolk County representative, of 19, to vote “nay” on the landmark transgender Public accommodation s civil rights bill that was signed into law in 2016. That said, Scaccia is deeply rooted in the Readville portion of the District — perhaps its single most important neighborhood — and, even at age mid-70s, knocks doors as energetically as any 30-year old. Scaccia may well hand off the seat to a newcomer in 2020, but this year — one in which the lejgislature rose to every reform occasion — seems not that time. the vote to endorse him was 5 to 1, the one vote being for van Ness, who has some support among “progressives.” We endorse Angelo M. Scaccia for re-election.

4th Suffolk State Representative : This seat is vacant, Nick Collins having been elected State senator for the South Boston and Dorchester District. Two candidates are running: David Biele, a former aide to Collins, and Matt Rusteika. Only 5 people of our eleven-member panel voted in this contest, but the vote was unanimous. Rusteika probably should have greater support than he does : he touts his work on the state’s C lean Energy plan, a Governor Baker priority. Yet Biele fits the strong tradition, in South Boston, of succession within the system. He also boasts a Boston Latin School, Boston College, and Boston College Law School education. One panelist said of Biele, “great guy, polished, knows the State House well.” A unanimous 5 to 0 vote of our panel gives David Biele our endorsement.

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There are several other contests on the September 4th Democratic Primary ballot. We have not followed these others closely, but this is what is happening there:

In the 9th Suffolk State Representative District, long-time incumbent Byron Rushing faces John Santiago, a physician at Longwood Medical Center. Santiago received endorsement by the Ward 4 Democratic Committee, Rushing’s home organization. Can Rushing, a progressive stalwart, be beaten ? In this year of “deserves re-election” ? We will see.

12th Suffolk State Representative : incumbent Dan Cullinane has a rematch with Jovan Lacet, who came very close to defeating Cullinane in 2016. No legislator works harder or has greater command of the Budget than Cullinane, yet demographic change — the District is majority Haitian-American — may be too much this time for Cullinane to overcome. This could be Suffolk County;s closest legislative primary race.

5th Suffolk State Representative : again, an open seat, Evandro Carvalho having decided to seek the office of Suffolk District Attorney. Three candidates seek to succeed him : Liz Miranda, Director of the Hawthorne Community Center in Fort Hill, that neighborhood’s premier community institution; Darrin D. Howell, who served as an aide to then City Councillor Chuck Turner, and who has some union endorsements; and perennial candidate Roy Owens. Mirnada, who is of cape Verdean heritage in this Cape Verdean-plurality District, received three votes from our panel — most of the eleven did not know enough of this race to vote — with none for Howell or Owens. Three is not enough for us to endorse, but i will note that I know Miranda, and I know the Hawthorne Center well, and I was one of her three votes by our panel.

3rd Congressional District : Niki Tsongas having decided not to seek re-election, ten Democratic candidates have stepped up to seek her Congress seat. I did not ask our panel to vote in this race because we ar4e all Boston types, and this seat runs from Framingham to Lowell to Lawrence and Haverhill. Of my facebook friends, who are almost all political types, some support Alexandra Chandler, an intelligence analyst; some support Barbara L’Italien, currently Lawrence, Andover, Tewksbury, and drcut’s State Senator; some support Lawrence State Representative Juana Matias. Yet others support Lori Trahan, as do I. Trahan is close to Governor Baker, and that bodes well for the kind of bipartisan co-operation that exists presently between Mike Capuano, who represents the 7th District, and Baker. She also hails from Lowell, the seat’s hub and economic center.

—- Mike Freedberg / for the panel at Here and Sphere





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overwhelmingly endorsed by our panel : 11th Suffolk State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez

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We’ve paid attention to several of the upcoming primary contests in both parties. Today we make our endorsements in those contests. In the past, endorsements have been discussed only between the two founders of Here and Sphere. This year we have asked a panel of eleven observers to weigh in. To win an endorsement, a selectee had to win seven votes.(6 to 5, we decided, was a “split decision” for endorsement purposes.) Not all our potential selections got to seven.

For the most part, our theme this year is “deserves re-election.” The legislature and Governor have just completed one of the most successful reform sessions that we can remember. It is difficult to see why any legislative challenger merits endorsement over incumbents who have just finished a “job well done.” That said , there are open legislative seats, and we have made choices in those.

7th Congressional District : we endorse Mike Capuano. (the vote was 10 to 1)  Capuano is the incumbent. Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley is challenging. This is a race between two very worthy candidates, both of whom Here and Sphere has great respect for, politically and personally. Pressley has campaigned as a “fresh face,” while Capuano talks about the clout he has already had and will have more of as a Committee Chairman in the new Congress, which will almost certainly have a Democratic majority. For us, that is the winning argument. Having a Committee chairman as the 7th’s Congressperson is a tremendous advantage for all the Federal funds we need for infrastructure, transit, pipeline issues, and hazardous materials safety — the nuts and bolts of Capuano’s committee. Capuano has campaigned almost non-stop, throughout the District, whose issues he has already shown mastery of and responded to with great success. Pressley’s supporters say that “change can’t wait,” but if change isn’t needed, waiting isn’t on the table. We strongly urge that you vote to re-elect Mike Capuano.

Suffolk District Attorney : the vote was 9 to 2, and thus Greg Henning wins our endorsement. Henning has four primary opponents : State Representative Evandro Carvalho, who before winning election as the 5th Suffolk’s representative was a Suffolk prosecutor; Rachael Rollins, formerly General Counsel to Massport; Shannon McAuliffe, a well-known defense attorney; and Linda Champion, also a former Suffolk County prosecutor. (Champion and Rollins each had one vote from our panel.)

Though not predicted, the result is not a mistake. Henning is a Suffolk District Attorney currently, and he is the only one of the candidates who does not propose that criminal justice reform — whose advance we strongly support — means overturning how the District Attorney operates. The District Attorney is there to prosecute — not defend. Criminal justice reform goes to the State’s Corrections Department, to the Sheriffs, and to police departments and Court probation services. As the people’s lawyer, the District Attorney has only one job to do “: decide which criminal complaints to prosecute and then prosecute them. Current District Attorney Dan Conley and his staff have operated fairly, with integrity, and openly and won convictions in almost all cases where a conviction should be won. Electing Greg Henning, who is best positioned to carry on the Conley record, thus accords with our theme “deserves re-election.”

15th Suffolk/Norfolk State Representative. Here the vote (11 people voted) was nearly unanimous : incumbent State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez wins our endorsement. As the State’s Budget chief, Sanchez completed an enormously complex $ 41.7 billion next-year appropriation which funds all sorts of reform initiatives. Sanchez is also a tireless advocate for the diverse residents of his District, which includes arts and medical students, community activists, public housing residents, affluent executives (on Moss Hill and in Brookline’s “Point” section), many Hispanic communities, and three bustling business districts. Lastly, sanchez enjoys a solid working relationship with Governor Baker, not a small matter when his signature is wanted on legislation.

Sanchez’s opponent, Nika Elugardo, (one vote from our panel) has worked on State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz’s staff. She complains that Sanchez hasn’t secured legislative passage of the entire “progressive’ agenda, much of which remains for the 2019 legislative session, in which it may be enacted — or may not be. We find that argument unconvincing. The current session enacted all kinds of significant reforms. Jeffrey Sanchez well deserves re-election.

Secretary of State. No endorsement. Long time incumbent Bill Galvin is challenged by Boston City Councillor Josh Zakim, who narrowly won the Democratic State Convention’s vote. The vote by our panel was 6 to 5 for Galvin (I voted for Zakim). This office is one in which I think there needs to be a different way of doing things. Galvin’s calling the primary for the day after Labor Day strikes me as prejudicial to challengers, not to mention the voters, who deserve a breather after vacation before diving into consideration of who to vote for. That said, half of our panel felt that Galvin has operated the securities and elections responsibilities of his office very effectively.

Suffolk Register of Deeds. challenger Katie Forde received two votes, incumbent Stephen Murphy five votes. Thus Stephen Murphy wins our endorsement for re-election to an office that probably shouldn’t be elected at all. Murphy has held information sessions all around the County, an innovation which probably does help voters to understand what the Deeds Registry actually does. That’s a worthy reform. We endorse a vote for re-electing Stephen Murphy.

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There are a host of other contests, including a three-way Republican primary for United States Senator and a contest for Governor. We’ll report these races tomorrow.


—- Mike Freedberg for the Panel / Here and Sphere





narrow gauge

MG2 of Quincy, one of Boston’s major developers of residential housing, has shocked the Jeffries Point neighborhood with a development proposal that cannot stand and will not stand. This proposal does have one benefit : it has turned Zoning Reform from legal esoterica to a first priority.

The above picture shows the proposal as presented : 99 units, 90 parking places, buildings 55 to 70 feet high. (The hulk-like structure between Maverick and Everett Streets looks especially monstrous.) It occupies four strips of land, long unused, that before 1940 belonged to the Boston, Revere & Lynn Railway right of way. That railway, rendered bankrupt by the rise of automobile use, followed the current Blue Line to its Wood Island station, then veered eastward onto land now belonging to Logan Airport, after which, at Maverick Street, it entered the Jeffries Point neighborhood; culminating in a  tunnel underneath Sumner and Webster Streets, from which it emerged to a ferry depot on the water side of Marginal Street. In 1940 the rail line ceased operation, and all the tracks, electric poles, and signage were removed. The land on which it ran was never used again. 40 years ago, according to deeds at the Suffolk Registry, its four “vacant parcels” were bought by Hugo Ascolillo, then of 192 Everett Street. (See Book 9048, Page 356, April 1978; grantors were Vincent A LoPresti and Sidney Boorstein, purchase price $ 4500.00.

At that time most of East Boston had not attracted investor interest in at least two generations. I’ve told how my Aunt Elizabeth, coming home to my Mom’s funeral in 1970, after living in Cleveland., Ohio since 1928, recognized every building and even every store. In the area you can find single family houses built after 1950, but very few.  Why Hugo Asoclillo bought these vacant lots, is anybody’s guess. Certainly he didn’t do anything with them.

In 1992 he created the Narrow Gauge Realty Trust but still didn’t do anything with lots that, although likely worth more than $ 4500, still fell far short of attraction to a home-builder. In any case, here we are, in 2018, and presumably that Trust is the seller in the current buy option which MG2, or a nominee, has reportedly entered into, to purchase these lots if the BPDA approves a proposal. Which is where things stand now.

Much money must be involved here. Buildable lots in the waterside parts of East Boston cost plenty. With three-family row houses asking $ 1.2 million and more, the potential rewards of MG2’s 99-unit offering run to the 50 millions or more. Hugo Ascolillo bought wisely. His $ 4500 purchase is probably worth two million — my guess, and maybe a  conservative one — to the beneficiaries of the trust he created. In no way do I fault the Ascolillo family for its good fortune: my objection is to the MG2 proposal. The Ascolillo beneficiaries will do just fine, and has every right to, assuming MG2 can commit to a proposal that does not rip apart the character pf the Jeffries Point neighborhood.

And now to the zoning issues, before I set forth my own Narrow gauge proposal:

Massachusetts zoning law, set forth in MGL c. 40A and 40B, gives cities and towns authority to create various zoning characteristics as they deem necessary and proper —


— and case law makes clear that if a zoning variance, from the applicable characteristic, is to be granted, it must carry out the purposes ascribed in the zoning characteristic. In other words, a variance must bolster the character of a zone, not detract from it, much less alter the character entirely.

The Narrow Gauge proposal requires several variances. It also overturns the very defined character of Jeffries Point. If the law of variances governs, no variance can legally be granted t.he MG2 proposal as it stands.

Doubtless MG2 will adjust its aspirations substantially. That’s what has happened with several other recent Jeffries Point development offerings. The area’s Neighborhood Association has vetoed many such, mostly by overwhelming votes. Developers simply seem not to grasp that residents of this very defined neighborhood aren’t going to approve its disruption.

How defined a neighborhood is Jeffries Point ? Go there, walk or drive around, take  along look at it all. It’s an area of brownstone row houses, wooden row houses,. and a few newly designed but similarly sized condo structures. It has a park similar to Louisburg Square. The majority of its residences were built 100 to 150 years ago. Al,most all have amenable back yards. The houses on Webster Street’s water side, and on Brigham and Marginal Street, have Harbor views to amaze you. The houses along most of Everett Street and half of Sumner Street are less imposing, but they share an easily recognizable, common character.

Jeffries Point epitomizes what the zoning law means by “characteristic.”

As I see it, there is no way that the City’s Zoning Board of Appeal can approve variances to enable the sort of proposal that MG2 has on offer. Sadly, the Board does approve, all over East Boston, variances for projects similarly derogative of neighborhood characteristics. Appealing these zoning decisions in Superior Court can easily require a $ 50,000 legal fee, maybe more. Few of us have one fifth of that. Thus zoning decisions that cannot stand, do stand. Which leads us to zoning law reform, a top priority for what Councillor Lydia Edwards, speaking for almost all, demand of a new East Boston Master Plan whose parameters will soon enough be presented for a City Council vote.

Zoning law reform will happen, because it must. We can’t continue to build ,more and more housing, in hopes that the law of supply and demand will force rents and house prices back to affordability. The situation reminds me of what cities felt about highways back in the 1930-1970 era : build more and bigger highways, and traffic will be absorbed. Instead, the more and bigger highways we built, the more traffic used them. Highway building made the traffic worse, not better. I’ve come to feel that the more housing we build in Boston, the more boom; the more boom, the more high-earning people Boston will attract, the higher that prices will go.

No one wants to see Boston’s prosperity boom fade away, but we cannot keep on the path we’re in. The only feasible method for stopping Boston’s boom from wiping out established neighborhoods, with their consensus quality of life, is to use zoning to protect them. Eventually, the Governor’s work-force housing plans, which foresee home building all along the West of Boston-Framingham-Worcester corridor, will ease the housing pressure on Boston land by extending the area in which businesses desire to locate. But that plan will take a decade or more to realize. Meanwhile, zoning reform offers a stop-gap remedy.

And now my suggestion for the Narrow Gauge lots :

On the two, quite large lots that run from Maverick Street to Sumner, build two or three unit condos similar to those recently erected on Geneva Street. On the lot between Sumner and Webster, build two such condos, one facing Sumner, one facing Webster. As for the fourth lot, that runs from Webster to Marginal, make it a dog park, if possible, with a walkway down to Marginal (the lot may not even be usable as a park given its steep slope)

The neighborhood might welcome such a proposal. What is wrong with building housing that a neighborhood can approve ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere







Last week Senator Elizabeth Warren, seeking re-election as our state’s US Senator, proposed a corporate reform bill she calls the “Accountability capitalism Act.” I dislike her proposal on several grounds. First, however, let’s look at what she proposes :

  • Requires very large American corporations to obtain a federal charter as a “United States corporation,” which obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders: American corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue must obtain a federal charter from a newly formed Office of United States Corporations at the Department of Commerce. The new federal charter obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders – including employees, customers, shareholders, and the communities in which the company operates. This approach is derived from the thriving benefit corporation model that 33 states and the District of Columbia have adopted and that companies like Patagonia, Danone North America, and Kickstarter have embraced with strong results.
  • Empowers workers at United States corporations to elect at least 40% of Board members: Borrowing from the successful approach in Germany and other developed economies, a United States corporation must ensure that no fewer than 40% of its directors are selected by the corporation’s employees.
  • Restricts the sales of company shares by the directors and officers of United States corporations: Top corporate executives are now compensated mostly in company equity, which gives them huge financial incentives to focus exclusively on shareholder returns. To ensure that they are focused on the long-term interests of all corporate stakeholders, the bill prohibits directors and officers of United States corporations from selling company shares within five years of receiving them or within three years of a company stock buyback.
  • Prohibits United States corporations from making any political expenditures without the approval of 75% of its directors and shareholders:Drawing on a proposal from John Bogle, the founder of the investment company Vanguard, United States corporations must receive the approval of at least 75% of their shareholders and 75% of their directors before engaging in political expenditures. This ensures any political expenditures benefit all corporate stakeholders.
  • Permits the federal government to revoke the charter of a United States corporation if the company has engaged in repeated and egregious illegal conduct: State Attorneys General are authorized to submit petitions to the Office of United States Corporations to revoke a United States corporation’s charter. If the Director of the Office finds that the corporation has a history of egregious and repeated illegal conduct and has failed to take meaningful steps to address its problems, she may grant the petition. The company’s charter would then be revoked a year later – giving the company time before its charter is revoked to make the case to Congress that it should retain its charter in the same or in a modified form.

I find nearly every portion of her proposal misguided or unworkable or both. To be

specific :

( 1 ) Requiring a large corporation to obtain not one but two corporate charters is a

recipe for gridlock and contradiction. Corporations are rightly creations of the

individual states, to whose laws they are responsible. These laws might well conflict

with Federal  law, in which case the Supremacy Clause overrides.  As corporations

make significant decisions every day, even every hour, the potential for conflict of

laws and resulting litigation could make corporate activity impossible; or else the

Federal law would take control, rendering the corporation’s state charter useless.

( 2 ) what does it mean, that a chartered corporation must “take into account” the

interests of ‘all stakeholders,” including employees, customers, ad the communities in

which the corporation operates ? Corporations already take customers into account, and

employees, and the tastes of the communities in which they have locations and, or

customers. So, does Warren mean to suggest that customers, employees, and

communities will be included in management decisions ? If so, no suggestion could be

more unworkable. Communities differ. What one wants, others oppose. Customers vote

with their buying decisions. market power is their input. Management is not within

customers’ expertise or time constraints, and customer complaints have their own path

to management, without being formalized into corporate legal duties.

( 3 ) Including employees on corporate boards sounds good to many, but in practice it

guarantees corporate conservatism, a death sentence in a competitive environment

where entrepreneurial innovation renews the economy every year. German corporate

governance is cited as a model: but it works — to the extent it does work — in Germany

because almost all employees of major corporations belong to a union. In this country,

less than 15 percent belong. warren’s proposal would mean a vote, which to organize

would import the equivalent of a union into the corporation’s affairs without the

requirements — and the safeguards — of a union organizing election pursuant to the

national :Labor relations act.

The German model produces cautious corporate management which has led to the death

of many old-line German big-names. Union executives’ first priority is saving their

members’; jobs and wages. Unions are rarely good at reform or change, and both are

requirements of successful economic competition. To the extent this caution doesn’t kill

the German economy’s competitiveness, that’s because Germany benefits from a huge

mittelstand” of medium-sized, family-run, specialty businesses which combine

expertise with innovation and make Germany one of the world’s dominant export


So much for the most unworkable portions of Senator Warren’s proposal.

The activity of publicly traded corporations does merit much reform, but Senator

Warren’s proposals fail to address them. Her proposal that 75 percent of corporate

shareholders be required for political expenditures would all but guarantee that none

would be made: almost all publicly traded shares today are owned by investment

institutions, which do not share the same goals, indeed pursue conflicting goals. Rather

than warren’s proposal, which like most of this bill’s provisions would freeze a

corporation in its tracks, I have long proposed the following, and now do so again :

( A ) Require institutionally owned shares to be non-voting

( B ) Apply Section 144 restricted stock provisions of the Securities Act of 1940 to all proposed stock buybacks.

( C ) Limit the sale by an Insider, as defined in the Securities Act, of option stock by requiring GAAP to value option stock at the market price on the day of sale.

( D ) impose a 100 percent margin requirement on stock purchases of more than 10,000 shares.


( E ) impose a 100 percent tax on profits obtained by taking a publicly traded company private.

These reforms would curb the irresponsible, short term and very short term speculation

that vitiates the investment goals of capitalism, which are of necessity long-term in

nature. Business cannot control their own operations if speculators and privatizers have

power to commandeer corporate assets for their own benefit. If we are actually practice

capitalism, which I define as the investment of private money, not government money, in

economic ventures — and I feel strongly that capitalism is by far preferable — then let’s

practice capitalism, not speculation and asset capture. In no way does Senator Warren’s

proposal get us  closer to that goal.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


111 bus

Today’s Boston Globe spotlights the enormous ridership demand that has made the Chelsea to Haymarket “111 bus” a nightmare for all. Reading the long report on the MBTA’s inability rapidly to accommodate a bus route that runs through the worst of city traffic, this thought occurred to me: MBTA bus routes were set forth long ago, well before downtown Boston and its next door neighborhoods became the places to be, the locations of everything.

Although the T suffers chiefly from being run on equipment and infrastructure that’s 50 years old , the scheduling, too, dates from decades ago. We like to think of transit as reliably the same, but it isn’t. If ridership declines, the T generates big losses and inattention from the legislature. That’s how it was back when we still looked to highways to get most commuters from home to job. The complete reversal of Boston’s situation has required a similarly total reversal of the T: but an infrastructure as everywhere as the T can’t, be turned on a dime or even on five hundred dimes. It takes plenty of time, to reconstruct everything and to find ways to d o bus routes appropriately, and it takes money and workers to see it through. And then what / What if Boston ceases to be the Great Attractor and reverts, once again, to being a place to get out of ? What do we do with a rebuilt T, a T built for a Great Attractor ?

That’s an argument for later. Right now, the T faces a ton of redeployment. One thinks of what General Hellmuth von Moltke said in the 1860s —

“an initial mistake in the deployment of an army can hardly be made good in the whole course of a war.” 

— and realizes that all large systems are the same: elephants that move with the slow elephantine oomphs. In this case the “mistake” wasn’t actually a mistake. T decisions made in the 1970s and 1960s were made according to conditions at the time and most likely expectations. that these expectations became the opposite of what actually happened, in the 1990s and since, is no fault of those who made them. The fault, if any,k would be if today’s T overseers did not work to correct the situation.

Governor baker and the legislature enacted reforms across the board, in 2015, to make the T work. All manner of improvements have been put in place since. The issue now facing Baker and the legislature is, how to adjust the entire system to a downtown-obsesssed ridership ? As the Boston Globe points out, there’s no easy answer. The T can hire 55 new bus drivers; it can deploy more frequent buses; it can stop cannablizing other bus routes for buses and drivers to met the route 11 demand. And these, the T is doing.

Governor baker is vividly aware of how greatly his attention to T challenges affects his popularity with the voters.

Thus the T will also introduce smaller buses on the 111 Route (and other heavily used buses) and build a Red Line to Blue Line connector, even as it has opened a Silver Line route from Chelsea to the Seaport — a line that has helped accommodate Chelsea commuters. I would like, in addition, to see the T adopt some method of flexibility in the 111 Route, or even to create 111A and 111B routes,m so as to minimize the size of crowds now waiting on the 111 Route. Perhaps a Chelsea to Boston water taxi might help. Given the dogged attention that baker and his Transportation aides, Stephanie Pollock and Joe Gulliver, bring to this constant crisis, I fully expect to see the T meet these challenges.

But then what ?

Even if by 2023 — the T’s stated re-purpose date — the T adjusts its operations to a downtown-centered Boston, what measures might it think of taking if Boston after 2023 begins once again to be a place people want to move out of, back to the suburbs and exurbs where houses have picket fences, lawns, and driveways ? Such a change means commuter-rail: but the current commuter=rail is managed by a contracted, outside company, not by the T itself, which means that failure cannot be rapidly corrected, because contracts are for a term of years.

Oh well. Meanwhile, the redeployment of today;’s T goes on, on the march, under the warning spoken by General von Moltke 150 years ago.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ my future fellow Americans — and yours

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You will hear plenty of people who oppose the resolving of undocumented immigrants’ status, saying “I like legal immigration.” As if to make a distinction between how one immigrant got here as opposed to another. I find the distinction disingenuous.

Or, the people who say “legal immigration” will tell me “we must obey the rule of law.” As if laws are perforce always right and never unjust. I say “unjust,” because laws arise from what is just. At least in a democracy they do. On this point, Jeb Bush had it right when he said, about undocumented immigrants, “they didn’t come here to break a law, they broke a law to come here.”

The very definition of America is immigration. Except for Indians, we’re all of immigrant descent; and even the various tribes of Indians came here from elsewhere, albeit thousands of years ago. Immigration is how America gathers itself. No distinction is made, in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, of origin, or faith, or nationality, or language. Any attempt to prefer one sort of immigrant to another is an innovation. It is not part of the national mission.

Mitt Romney has said it well : “every religion enhances the national character.” I would add, ‘every origin of immigrant enhances the national character.”

Congress has, from time to time, enacted laws that prejudice one sort of immigrant in favor of another. I find these laws specious. If our Constitution extends equal protection of the laws to all, and rights of due process, how can an immigration law treat potential immigrants unequally ? You can answer that immigrants don’t possess such rights until they are admitted, but that is to invert the Constitution. How can an immigrant get admitted to equal protection if he or she is denied equal protection before the fact ?

These Constitutional arguments avoid a deeper objection to what people mean by “legal immigration.” Most who use that phrase argumentatively disfavor immigrants from “shithole countries,” as our President termed it, or who are of color and don’t speak English — as if English were entitled to unequal protection of the law over other languages. That immigrants bring with them cultural customs that most of us are unused to, or uncomfortable with, is  no argument against them; because the promise of America is to make immigrants comfortable — and welcome — in the nation. Many who feel uncomfortable about immigrants’ customs talk about “assimilation,” as if immigrants don’t want to “be American.” This is false. I have witnessed, in my long life, many brands of immigrant move from complete un-assimilation to complete assimilation in three generations. How can it be otherwise ? Those who grow up; in a culture are part of it.

In any case, the nation belongs to those who live in it and to those who will live in it in the future; and if the language or customs of that future are different from what we are normed for, so be it; we do not own the nation, it is not our private property : we only tenant it; we shepherd it forward.

Those who use the term “legal immigration” do imply such a property interest in the nation — as if our cities and countryside belonged to us by deed and “illegal immigration” were a kind of  “keep off the grass” sign, or a “no trespassing,” not to mention a “violators will be prosecuted.”

No such property interest in the nation inures to anyone.

So much for the moral and inspirational bases of immigration justice. There’s also the economic argument : every immigrant is a customer. The more customers a business has, the more it grows. Immigration is bullish. Immigrants not only spend money, they also create it. More businesses are started by immigrants than by those who are born here. Jeb Bush made an economic argument for immigration as well as a moral one : because immigrants have a much younger demographic, they bolster the solvency of Social Security and Medicaid.

Given all of the above, it is imperative that we move past the hatred of immigrants that has poisoned our current politics. The national mission insists on it, the economy benefits from it, and immigrant customs enhance the national character. Arguments to the contrary are self defeating at best, destructive at worst. Hopefully a new Congress, and in 2020 a new President, will grant DACA folks pathways to citizenship, make permanent the temporary status of so many “TPS” immigrants, welcome refugees, grant automatic citizenship to combat veterans, and in general resolve the angry conundra that have pushed our nation off its rails of destiny.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ Ready to door knock in Brighton : “Team Capuano” feels good about their guy

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Ten days ago I wrote a fairly long column about why I personally support Mike Capuano for re-election as one of two Boston-plus Congresspeople. This time I would like to argue more generally about why I think the voters of our District should re-elect him. I will focus not on his strengths in office but on the forensics of the campaign itself.

Ayanna Pressley, Capuano’s well-liked opponent, with an estimable record of her own as a Boston City Councillor, has argued two points. Neither one stands up to cross-examination :

First : that the Democratic party needs new voices. Voters don’t elect a Congress-person for the sake of a political party. They elect for the benefit of everyone. The Committee that Capuano will chair — Transportation, Pipelines, and Hazardous materials — oversees crucial infrastructures underpinning everyone who lives in and near Boston, as well as the Federal funds which, by law, are dedicated to maintenance and upgrading of these infrastructures. As Committee chairman, he sets funding priorities as well as the time involved to secure said appropriations. If anything, the power that Capuano will exercise over these infrastructures is a solid reason for NOT ousting him in favor of a “new voice.”

Pressley may argue that as the vote on September 4th is a Democratic primary, the future of that party is very much the main issue. But no. In the 7th District almost everyone enrolled in a party enrolls as a Democrat because every office on every ballot, except Governor, is decided there; and if you want to have a voice in who gets elected, you vote in the Democratic primary. Very few who vote in the Democratic primary care much, or at all, about Democratic party matters. For example : Democratic ward committees — the party structure set up by MGL c. 55 —  endorse candidates in party primaries who, more often than not, fail to win the Democratic primary in which the voters, not just party activists, vote.

Second : Pressley argues that as the population of the 7th District is mostly non-Caucasian, she, as a woman of color, is more representative than Capuano. I find this argument without merit. A candidate earns a vote because of what they stand for and can do, not because they have this biology or that one.

Boston has five City Councillors who are women of color, three State Representatives, and one State Senator. Two other women hold office in the City. We’ve had State Senators of color going back to the 1970s. We’ve had an African-American District Attorney : Ralph Martin. The city elected an at-large City Councillor of color, Tom Atkins, as far back as the late 1960s. Ed Brooke, then an Elm Hill resident, was elected a United States Senator, twice. David Nelson ran for Congress in the ancestor of the District now held by Stephen Lynch. He won a solid percent of the total vote and was later appointed a Federal Judge. It is not as though Boston voters are unwilling to elect candidates of color. Quite the opposite.

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Campaigns matter. You have to pick your spot, and, assuming you’ve picked smartly, you have to make your case. That case has to answer the basic question : why am I a better choice than my opponent ? And, if you are challenging an incumbent, the question has a second part : what can I do that the incumbent cannot ? The reverse question also demands an answer : what can you, the challenger do, that I, the incumbent, am not already doing ?

To these questions the answer “change can’t wait,” which Pressley has argued, is no answer at all. You can’t say “change can’t wait” until you have shown the voter why there should be change at all.

Pressley argues that change is needed because of Donald Trump. I fail to see why Mike Capuano should be replaced because of Donald Trump. Capuano is an opponent of Mr. Trump, not a supporter; and as a Committee chairman in the new Congress, he’ll be an even more influential opponent. If anything, Pressley’s change argument cuts against her. If the nation were at political peace, voters might say “OK, a new voice,” because nothing would be lost or at stake. But now, of all times, when the future of the nation is on the line, opponents of Mr. Trump need all the clout we can get.

To sum up : I like Ayanna Pressley, politically and personally. She’s a fine speaker, an effective Councillor, an advocate for small business, and good company. Many of my friends support her, and she has earned that support. But this campaign is not only about Ayanna Pressley’s accomplishments. It’s about Mike Capuano as well, and, ultimately, about Federal power and who can best use it for all the voters of the District.

Adrian Walker in today’s Boston Globe appears to decry that the “status quo” is in good shape in Massachusetts. Why is that bad ? If those in office are doing a diligent and forward-looking job — as almost all of our current electeds are, including Mike Capuano — maybe the status quo is exactly what we should want.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ US Senate candidate Beth Lindstrom chats with East Boston Community Health’s Manuel Lopes at National Night Out event yesterday

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Three candidates seek Massachusetts’s Republican party nomination for the United States Senate seat now held by Senator Elizabeth Warren. Given the unpopularity of Mr. Trump in our state — for very strong reasons — the question has to be, why does this Republican nomination even matter ? And if it does matter, why ? In a recent WBUR poll, 66 percent of our voters disapprove of Mr. Trump’s performance; only 29 percent approve. It’s hard enough to defeat an incumbent in any office, much less a Senator who voices passionately the anti-Trump views of an overwhelming majority of our voters. Yet the nomination is there. Why should we who dislike Mr. Trump even care ?

I’ll try to answer this question. First of all, you should note that the primary is not the election. One can like one of the three Republican candidates, and want him or her to win the nomination, without committing to a November vote against Senator Warren. That is where I stand.

My view is that voters should have two excellent choices on the ballot, not one excellent choice and one who is unthinkable. Mr. Trump has, in mind, terribly corrupted the national Republican party and made it flagrantly illegitimate to all but his band of followers. But Mr. Trump is not immortal. He will be gone soon enough. Those of us who want to see a useful Republican party on the scene can start recovering a useful Republican party by nominating the best of the three now seeking the Senate nomination.

We can do that and still vote for Senator Warren in November.

In my own case, I have decided that Beth Lindstrom is the candidate most able to restore political sanity to the national Republican party. To that end, it helps that t.he GOP in New England has retained much of its reformist roots. Governors in Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as our own Charlie Baker, hold mainstream views and govern as common sense reformers. Though they’re not part of the national GOP, they do at least provide example to activists who like Republican reform but aren’t sure that it has a future in the age of Mr. Trump. Granted, that the numbers are small. How could they not be —

“every journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” — Lao Tzu

— yet single steps offer one big advantage in politics: with few around, you get listened to a lot by the candidate. And together, you and she learn.

Of John Kingston, there isn’t much to say. Though he is no friend of Mr. Trump, he has adopted Mr. Trump’s terrible immigration message and, on other matters, has had little to say beyond standard Trump-era talking points. He also knows hardly anyone in our SNtate’s political community.

The third candidate, State Representative, Geoff Diehl, was Mr. Trump’s Massachusetts campaign chairman. ’nuff said.

Mr. Diehl won the Republican convention’s endorsement, with 56 percent, but Beth Lindstrom won 29 percent and Kingston 15. It is highly unlikely that the 400,000 primary voters will be anywhere near as ideologically rigid as the convention delegates. And even they — most of them — understand the need to be practical in a state where they count only a small minority of us all. They want to win.

Beth Lindstrom will likely not win in November; but neither would Diehl or Kingston. Recent polls give them each about 20 to 22 percent against warren’s 53 to 55. But right now that is not the point. The point is to nominate the candidate who can best exemplify a usefully reformist Republican position.

Lindstrom’s campaign is far from perfect —

( 1 ) it has taken her all year to become the persuasive campaigner she now is — to develop the confidence to listen to all manner of voters, knowing that listening is often more persuasive than talking.She’s there now, but the time is late.

( 2 ) She still struggles to find a message that appeals to the majority without risking the support of Republican primary voters. Yet how can I blame her ? It would take extraordinary political integrity to advocate a majority position, as a national office Massachusetts Republican, in any year. In the era of Mr. Trump, you might have to be a martyr. Nonetheless, Beth is working her way toward a message : boiler plate on the issues that salivate Mr. Trump, reformist specifics on issues that actually matter to participatory voters.

( 3 ) She has been out of the political world for almost a decade, and it shows. She needs badly to catch up on who’s who these days and what is being discussed by those who drive our state’s political opinions and agendas. Like almost all Massachusetts Republicans other than Governor Baker, she doesn’t appear to know much about city politics or city voters. (Beth lives in Groton, in the Route 495 belt.) As a result, she almost entirely lacks a personal political following : because it’s in the cities that followings are won.

— yet these deficiencies, though grave, aren’t deficiencies of character or good will. Beth wants to be a responsive candidate, wants to embrace city issues, wants to know more and talk about more than just the usual RNC talking points. Whether she actually gets top that point, or not, of grasping city issues and being able to advocate specific reforms that generate an actual campaign, is not at all certain. But she is definitely a part of the solution. And that for me is good enough reason to advance her candidacy for an otherwise otiose nomination.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphedre



^ ONE DALTON PLACE : gazillion-dollar condos for jet set investors

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The building pictured above sets a most depressing pace for the transformation of Boston from an introverted but stable, affordable city, as it once was, to a dynamo of top dollar innovation unaffordable to all but the sponsors of linkedin dazzle.

Yes, your Boston has, since the 1990s at least, moved to recreate itself entirely. So have other cities — the movement is a global one — but Boston is the city I was born in and have lived my life in or near, and it is Boston’s transformation that I — and all of you — have seen from up close. There’s very little in it that anyone foresaw back in the 1970s and 1980s, when the idea first took hold, that downtown Boston badly needed revival and should pursue it. The proposal then was to revive Quincy Market: a limited endeavor, easy to support, for very sound reasons : bringing new life — tourists, maybe even local shoppers — into downtown might regenerate the whole district economically and maybe even boost the City’s real estate tax revenue. The project was a hit. Today, after twenty years of such hits, downtown and in the City’s close-in neighborhoods, Boston isn’t the same City at all. The hits ARE the city.

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Thirty years ago — 40, 50, even 60 years ago — the dynamics of Boston life pointed outward. Boston’s rich had, almost all of them, beginning as early as 1920, left Beacon Hill and the Back Bay for Brookline, Milton, the North Shore. The rest of Boston’s people also wanted to move away — from dense, tenemented in-town neighborhoods, with their under-funded schools, and out of the next rung of neighborhoods as well : off to West Roxbury and Hyde Park, and Ashmont, and out of the City altogether. The South Shore, once completely rural, became the “Irish Riviera,” as towns from Quincy and Weymouth to Marshfield, Hanover, Holbrook, Braintree, Randolph, and Pembroke — and even onto Cape Cod — doubled and tripled in population: and then some. At the same time, other in-town people moved from the West End and North End, Charlestown and East Boston up routes 38, 28, and 1-A, changing the demographics of Middlesex County all the way up to Route 128 and beyond — and up into Essex County also. The dream was to own a home with a picket fence, lawn, and driveway away from smoggy air and  city noise, in towns with well-managed school systems; towns near huge new shopping malls and close to the new super-highways that led to the new jobs in defense plants and high-tech mills built, providentially, along those same highways. Route 128, which in the 1950s circled Boston through farm towns, became a 50-mile long industrial park. This is where the action was, and Boston itself was left, pretty much, to those with City jobs — in 1975 Boston had over 30,000 municipal employees — and folks who serviced city employees’ needs. Also another 20,000 or so people with county and State administration that takes place, perforce, on Beacon Hill, in the city.

Boston in 1975 was a closed world able to continue being a closed world because no one wanted to open it. I recall that world. I was part of it as was my Mom, a famous Boston newspaper-woman born in East Boston to a large immigrant family. My Mom knew everybody who mattered, because in that closed world, everybody who mattered knew and had always known each other. House prices were low — you could buy a row house in Charlestown for $ 5,000, and not only in Charlestown — which favored the continuation of that closed Boston: why move out if your work was in Boston, and you could get a favor done, and you trusted your neighbor, and the cost of living was almost nothing ? Even the derelict had a placed in that closed Boston. The South End in 1975 was a mix of long-established city denizens, many of them people of color, and rooming houses, each seedier than the next but all of them woven comfortably into the accepted fabric of the neighborhood and its city. Plenty of South End properties sold for $ 10,000 and some for much less. Many others were boarded up, which was also OK because boarded-up properties signalled the culture of no-change.

In the Boston of 1975 those who continued to live in it had no reason to expect that their uncontested ownership of the city would ever give way. It was a city of the familiar and the permanent. I often tell the story of my Aunt Elizabeth, who, returning to East Boston for my Mom’s funeral, in late 1969, after living in Cleveland since 1929, recognized every building, even every store, in her old neighborhood of Eagle Hill. Nothing had been done. No investor had built anything. Why would they, when property prices didn’t budge, nor rents rise much : Mom’s family in 1921 paid $ 18 a month to live on the second floor of 180 Bennington Street; rents in 1975 Eagle Hill had lifted to maybe $ 35 a month.

So that was it. There were Irish neighborhoods, and Italian ones, and a Jewish one — fast disappearing: more about this later — a remnant upscale neighborhood (Beacon Hill, Back Bay), and two or three Black neighborhoods too. that was how it had been, and would be, and nobody was making any alternative proposal.

Boston’s very few 1975 high-income people — almost all of them from old-money; Boston families — who still lived in the city benefitted too. They had their neighborhood, and house prices higher, of course, than elsewhere in the city but a bargain nonetheless. Their clubs were in the neighborhood. They had a grocery, on Charles Street.. They lived close to their work, at the MGH hospital across Cambridge Street from Beacon Hill, or at white-shoe law firms, wool brokerages, and old-line trust companies in the downtown district. Many took the subway to work or walked.

Most of that Boston is now gone, the rich as well; as the middle and bottom; the remnant is rapidly going. Where money 40 years ago wanted no part of Boston, today money wants all of it. The rest of us can go take a hike :

( 1 ) the thing now is to live, work, shop and socialize downtown. The nearer to downtown, the more desirable.

( 2 ) the high tech industries that in 1975 made Route 128 their happy place now locate downtown. So do the bureaucratic new specialty professions — lobbying, “consulting,” public relations, event production, trade show promoters, networking convention management — that did not exist in 1975. Downtown is home to several new convention centers.

( 3 ) entirely new neighborhoods of high-rent, amenity-rich residential clusters, $ 40 to $ 60 a meal restaurants, craft beer brewers, high tech firms, nightclubs serving $ 12 drinks with a $ 25 to $ 50 admission price, and specialty professions have remade derelict old, portside sectors. Areas that once had no value now claim multi-million dollar prices.

( 4 ) much of the new downtown is blatant racist. Clubs are afraid to let more than ten percent of their fans be people of color because, as one club  owner told me, let in more, and the club soon becomes all Black.” (And the all Black clubs are here too.) The old Boston was racist too, vulgar at times, economically biased (“no Irish need apply,” “Italians not wanted,” or “no Jews in this law firm”)and it was divided by neighboods with different country of origin; but the new economy is open to all — even its business clubs — which makes today’s downtown racism a sick joke as well as an obsolete hypocrisy. Does anybody in it care ? Not many that I hear from.

( 5 ) neighborhoods near to downtown, of “period” homes and funky old two and three-decker row houses, have become trendy destinations.

( 6 ) the move of high-paying jobs from Route 128 (and Route 495) to downtown, combined with a scarcity of housing compared to those whop want to live close to high-paying work, has spurred a building boom t.hat shows no signs of slowing. Rents have risen 1000 percent; you’ll pay $ 2,500 to $ 5,000 to rent in a trendy neighborhood. Buy prices, too: homes in East Boston, Charlestown, South Boston, Mission Hill, and Roxbury all claim a million dollar price tag. West Roxbury in 1975 was one of Boston’s priciest neighborhoods; today, being seven miles from downtown, it’s below average.

( 7 ) immigrant and low-wage people have either been forced out of their long-available neighborhoods or will soon be, as low-wage people move away from the city, away from their jobs, leaving them with long, costly commutes. Even middle-income workers find it hard to remain in the City. (This is not news. From 1967 to about 1974, the almost 100 percent Jewish neighborhoods along Blue Hill Avenue were block-busted to meet the expanding needs of Boston’s Black residents — a classic cased of pitting one disfavored group against another. Block-busting was a real estate brokers’ bonanza — an avalanche of houses for sale, sold quickly !)

( 8 ) traffic has almost choked the City. It was one thing to locate industry along super highways, quite another to concentrate it in and around the narrow streets of downtown. Super highways could always be widened and service roads built. No such option is available in the city. And where do residents park ?

Boston by 2030, which year is Mayor Walsh’s end date for building 53,000 units of new housing in the city, almost all of it very high-rent or high-buy-price construction, will almost certainly. be a city for the very highly paid, along with those City and State employees who can somehow continue to afford to live in it. It’ll be  a city of impossible traffic no matter how many bikes and bike lanes we enable. It will be serviced by low-wage workers who commute in from ten to 60 miles away, living in Fall River, where house prices and rents are one-third or less of Boston prices, or in Lynn, Lawrence , or Malden, where low-income enclaves have taken up since the 1980s and continue to grow. There’ll be more of these enclaves, because unlike the old Boston, in which low wage workers often came from the same families as city and State big-wigs, are today m,ore and more likely to be immigrants in a society that has come to look down up[on immigrants.

Boston by 2030 will have public school facilities with a capacity of 92,000 students but probably fewer than today’s 54,000. Fewer and fewer residents will want to send their kids to a school system bound by old work rules and bureaucratic curricula when they can easily afford private schooling. By 2030, as well, Boston will be challenged every day by rising sea levels that already flood portions of East Boston. By 2030 much of Dorchester and the South End will also be threatened. The money cost will be immense of berming low-lying Boston neighborhoods.

Boston had been very much a city of the old. In 1975 the typical Boston voter was a grandmother with an Irish or Italian last name. The old of 1975 had no choice but to live as they had, because house prices were too low for anyone to want to sell and because Boston life was easy and familiar. Toady the old, if they own a home, must find it very hard NOT to sell, now that their house is a lottery ticket. Boston by 2030 -will be a city of the young. You can tell by what kind of housing is being proposed: tiny units (two bedroom condos with 850 square feet of living ? The typical house with a picket fence, of 1975, had about 1200 to 1500 square feet; the 19890s McMansions that everybody wanted briefly offered about 3500 square feet ! Those 750 square foot one-bedrooms, 450 square foot studios, and 850 square foot two-bedrooms can only accommodate the young and the single.

The young, the single, the highly paid, will dominate the Boston of 2030, a beehive of 12 to 15 hour workdays, craft beer bistros, $ 50 meals, food trucks, and high-end retailers serving all of those post-graduate educated $ 150,000 to $ 500,000 earners in their linkedin consultancies, medical cubicles, law firm brief-writing laptops, and higher-education speech-code lecture halls. Immigrants will be only those with HB-2 visas. Everyone will be busy beyond belief, solo, and endlessly self-conscious that they live in a city surrounded by nameless proles who fear and hate them.

There has to be better than this for a city whose present dynamism is, in some ways, as much downfall as triumph. Perhaps the community activists who are gathering for conversations and recreating block-level friendships, can find a way to rein in the runaway gold fever that threatens the city’s sanity, not to mention its legitimacy.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ Clout as a Congressman, and bi-partisan co-operation — Mike Capuano (2nd from left; Somerville May.or Joe Curtatone to his left, ground-breaking the Green Line Extension., whose funding he was instrumental in securing, with Governor Baker and many local electeds.

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Note : this column is my personal view. It is not a formal Here and Sphere endorsement.  In that decision my editing and writing partner Heather Cornell has an equal voice.

Sometimes we forget what election campaigns are about. The campaign has its own custom, a free for all of advocacy, charges, counter-charges, debate, organization, turn-out. All of which excites me and thousands like me. Yet the campaign is actually a job interview, if you’re new, or a performance evaluation if you’re already in office.

It is easy sometimes to think otherwise —

“I was campaign shoutin’ like a Southern diplomat” — Chuck Berry, “Nadine.”

— but the actual job, be it Governor or State Representative, Mayor or Congressman, Councillor or State Senator, has a job description (you can find them in State Constitutions and statutes governing the duties of an office), and it is that, the job, that happens once the campaign  is over.

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So now my reasons why I support re-electing Mike Capuano:

( 1 ) by his long tenure he has built seniority on Congressional committees that gives him extraordinary clout. Federal administrators know that, he will be there; that he knows where the inefficiencies are and who is responsible for correcting them; that his staff knows who to call when there’s an intractable constituent problem. (On immigration matters, as pressing a crisis as any right now, there’s none more effective than his immigration staffer Kate Auspitz.)

( 2 ) long tenure of Congressional office as a basic strategy. Massachusetts voters have always understood that the surest way to give our smallish Congressional delegation maximum influence is to keep re-electing t.hem for the sake of all the clout that long tenure accords. This strategy has served us well. regardless of which party controls Congress, our long-serving delegation gets its way on all sorts of matters, from Federal dollars to our defense and sciences industries, disaster relief, transit upgrades, and our long coastline, all of whose issues are subject to Federal jurisdiction.

( 3 ) Mike Capuano will be a Committee chairman when Democrats take control — as they will — of the next Congress. Of what Committee ? Read this excerpt from his website biography :

“I’m also a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. I received this assignment in June of 2002. Before being named to this Committee, I served on the Committee on the Budget and the Committee on Science and Technology. The Transportation Committee has jurisdiction over issues related to aviation, maritime transportation, railroads, highways, transit and pipelines and water resources. Currently I am the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, and a member of the Subcommittee on Aviation and the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.”

People skeptical of Mike’s re-election have suggested to me that his committees aren’t exactly where the action is. I could not disagree more —

( a ) We in greater Boston depend upon the service we get from railroads and MBTA transit : their upgrade and maintenance, extension and hours of operation. Federal dollars provide a significant amount of these costs — it’s right there in the Federal statutes governing transportation operation.

( b ) Pipelines : ask the people of West Roxbury and Roslindale whether pipelines and their location are not enormously important. Moreover, gas pipelines generally are being questioned, given the need to convert so much of our energy needs to clean power.

( c ) Hazardous materials come into our port of Boston on LNG ships every day. We have strong state laws governing road transport of “hazmat,” and the Department of Environmental Quality is loaded with work overseeing site clean-ups. Federal oversight is often required.

As a Committee Chairman Mike will be able to prioritize legislation, and his clout, already legendary, will only increase. Let me tell you a story about Mike’s clout, one which always gets voters’ attention when I tell it :

Back in May I was at a large-attended meeting of the South End Community Board. On the agenda was a problem the neighborhood’s 02118 zip code was having with its mailboxes. On hand to answer people’s questions were three (3) postal officials. Not one, not two, but three, including the District Director. They answered questions for a full hour.

I have never seen a postal official at a neighborhood meeting. Never. But Mike Capuano was able to get three of them to an after-hours meeting and stand there answering questions for twice as long as intended.

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This has been a very strange campaign. Capuano’s challenger, Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley, who certainly boasts her own record of valuable accomplishment, and whom I very much like, has adduced no reason why she should win this office and Mike Capuano not. On the issues that most observers discuss — opposition to Mr. Trump and his agenda, she and Capuano agree. Her supporters, trying to fill an empty glass, present three arguments that lack all merit :

—– She is a woman and a woman of color in a District whose population is majority minority. Here we have an identity politics argument : that people can only be represented by people who look like them or have the same anatomy. I reject this argument root and branch. It is a kind of apartheid argument that diminishes a nation dedicated to the equality of all.

—- “time for fresh leadership” — to which I respond : Why ? As I’ve pointed out, what we want is the exact opposite. We benefit from long tenure and the committee chairmanship it now earns.

—- #changecantwait —- I saw this in a facebook discussion yesterday. I’m not a fan of hashtag politics, but I’ll accord this one a full response.

The slogan has two components. The change component, I answered above. As for the “can’t wait” part, my view is that change must indeed wait. Reform must have patience. Impulsive change often gets it wrong and almost always entails unintended consequences we’d rather have avoided. In a complicated government arrangement such as ours, the only path to change that ( a ) lasts and ( b ) minimizes potentially regrettable after effects is to take our time. One consensus step at a time sure does beat a tidal wave of instant overturn.

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To all of the above reasons why I support Mike Capuano I’ll add another : bi-partisan co-operation for the betterment of all the voters. Electeds of different political p;arties working together is how democratic reform gets most effectively done.

In Mike’s case, I cite one huge instance of it:

Together with Governor Baker, with whom he maintains a relationship of mutual deep respect, Mike was able to win the billion dollars needed to complete Green Line extension funding. Extending the Green Line will greatly boost the business prosperity (and thus the good jobs) of Somerville and Medford and probably of Malden, Melrose, and Everett besides. Resolving the myriad transit and commuter-rail upgrades that remain to be completed, the Baker and Capuano relationship is a distinct asset as we move forward.

Moving forward is the operative phrase here. Elections are about the future, and a future that includes Mike Capuano’s best is well worth re-electing him.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere